Press Release

IACHR Conveys Its Solidarity with the Families of the 43 Missing Students from Ayotzinapa and Expresses Deep Concern over the Lack of Justice and Clarification of Events

September 26, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - To mark the fifth anniversary of the disappearance of 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos rural school in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, the IACHR expressed its solidarity with the families of the missing students. It also urged the state to speed up its search for them and to prosecute and sanction those responsible for the crime. The IACHR is deeply concerned that there are still no answers regarding these events despite how much time has gone by. It also reasserted its commitment to monitoring the case and providing support until such time as the truth is established and justice is done.

On being informed of the disappearance of the 43 students, the IACHR adopted Precautionary Measure 409-14 and asked the Mexican state to begin searching for them, investigate into events, and provide care and support services for victims. After reaching an agreement with the state and representatives of the victims’ families, the IACHR created an Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) that provided state authorities with technical assistance and presented the conclusions from its work in two reports that included recommendations for the state. Once the GIEI had concluded its work, the IACHR created the Special Follow-Up Mechanism on the Ayotzinapa Affair (MESA). Over the following two years, MESA monitored compliance with the precautionary measure and the GIEI’s recommendations and published two reports containing recommendations for the Mexican state.

In 2019, at the request of the current Mexican government and the victims’ families, MESA was strengthened to provide further technical support. Now known as the IACHR Special Mechanism for Cooperation and Technical Assistance on the Ayotzinapa Affair, it includes IACHR staff working in Mexico and has provided support for investigations, searches, and the provision of care for victims. At the parties’ request, the mechanism also includes a technical advisory group of international experts with extensive knowledge of the matter who can provide technical advice on specific aspects of the criminal investigation.

The IACHR regrets that in five years there have been no answers as to what happened and who was involved in the events of that tragic September 26, 2014, despite this being a substantial amount of time for the state to have made progress on the investigation and taken measures to find the missing students. To date, no one has been convicted of the crime of enforced disappearance, nor have the alleged irregularities in the investigation been clarified. Furthermore, the IACHR has expressed its concern over the judicial decisions that led to the recent release of people who were allegedly connected with the events and may have valuable information on the students’ whereabouts. The IACHR urges the state to make swift progress and comply with the recommendations that have been made to it as part of its international human rights obligations.

As part of its monitoring work, the IACHR has witnessed a series of ongoing problems in the investigation which include the fragmented, incomplete nature of the process, which lacks clear direction; the lack of arrests or warrants regarding forced disappearance; and the lack of arrests of state actors for their actions or failure to act. Likewise, the IACHR has drawn attention to the importance of investigating more fully into the members of the 27th Battalion and establishing whether various municipal, state, and federal police forces were involved. It has also noted that no progress has been made on investigations into the alleged irregularities committed by authorities and underlined the importance of more extensive investigations when presenting indictments and charges. It is the IACHR’s belief that it is unreasonable for there to be no concrete results after five years.

One matter of deep concern for the IACHR is the fact the official narrative regarding investigations at the Cocula Landfill (the so-called historic truth) remains unchanged, despite the observations made by the IACHR itself, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF). The president of the IACHR remarked that “Now more than ever, authorities need to rebuild their theories on the case. The IACHR once again stresses the importance of exhausting all lines of investigation to clarify the facts and, most importantly, find the missing students.”

Forced or involuntary disappearance is one of the most serious, cruel human rights violations, one that continues to be perpetrated for as long as the ultimate fate of the missing person remains unknown. Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva commented that “the state must work diligently to exhaust all possible lines of investigation in relation to these events, including those that point to the possible involvement of state agents and security forces at all levels, and all omissions and possible obstructions of justice.”

The IACHR welcomes the current government’s creation of the Presidential Commission for Truth and Access to Justice in the Ayotzinapa Affair through a presidential decree in December 2018 and values the fact that this is a space in which the families of the missing students play a supporting role. This commission has taken part in search operations in partnership with the relevant authorities, but unfortunately, these have so far been unsuccessful. It has also made progress on technical issues that are relevant to the investigation and may contribute to it. Likewise, the IACHR applauded the creation of the Special Investigation and Litigation Unit for the Ayotzinapa Affair at the Attorney General’s Office, which has emphasized the importance of conducting investigations again, including existing legal processes, and investigating into irregularities in these. With regard to the provision of care for victims, the IACHR acknowledged the care being given to students Edgar Vargas and Aldo Gutiérrez, and measures to care for victims’ families, such as healthcare plans for the parents of the 43 students, including emergency care. The IACHR encouraged the states to speed up these efforts, with assistance and cooperation from different government bodies.

Finally, the IACHR saluted the perseverance and fortitude of the students’ families, and each of the steps they have taken in this painful process. In the words of Executive Secretary of the IACHR, “we wish to acknowledge the resilience and strength of the families and victims in the quest for truth and justice.” The president of the IACHR and rapporteur for Mexico, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, added, “as the mother of one of the missing students said, ‘Don’t think that we’ve forgotten you and don’t forget that we are waiting for you.’ The IACHR has not forgotten the 43 students either. We will continue to follow this case as per our competencies and mandate.”

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 239/19